July 24, 2019
Carson City, NV – In recognition of Military Consumer Protection Month, Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford urges members of the military and their families to take steps to protect their financial assets. As with civilian consumers, members of the military can be the target of fraudsters. In fact, active duty military and their families are often targeted because they may be deployed or relocate frequently, or because service members may be living on their own and earning a paycheck for the first time.
Members of Nevada’s military, veterans and their families are encouraged to take advantage of the free legal assistance and services provided by the Attorney General’s Office of Military Legal Assistance. Launched in November 2015, Nevada’s Office of Military Legal Assistance @EASE Program was the nation’s first attorney general-led, public-private partnership offering our military communities access to pro bono civil legal services. In practice, the program pairs military service members in need of legal assistance with pro bono private legal counsel for civil matters. The program also provides monthly workshops dedicated to drafting free wills and powers of attorney for Nevada veterans across the State. With more than 150 Nevada attorney volunteers, this program and its partners have already served over 3,000 military families, demonstrating a real need in our communities.
“Protecting those who have protected our country is one of the privileges afforded to me as attorney general,” said AG Ford. “Scammers often tailor their schemes specifically to take advantage of those who serve, and my office is here to help. Whether it’s providing free legal services or connecting servicemembers and veterans with resources and remedies, my office is committed to guarding against those exploiting the service of our brave Nevadans.”
Mortgage Relief Scams
Military homeowners struggling to make mortgage payments may turn to a mortgage assistance program to obtain relief. However, many companies require a fee in exchange for the promise of obtaining a loan modification or preventing foreclosure. Some may claim to be affiliated with the government or a non-profit. In Nevada, it is against the law for a company to accept money until the lender has given you a written offer, and you have accepted it.
If you are struggling with your mortgage, there are legitimate organizations that offer assistance. The Office of the Nevada Attorney General sponsors a free public service called the Home Again Nevada program that provides free legal services and assistance from HUD-approved housing counseling agencies for Nevada residents statewide. More information about the program can be found at homeagainnevada.gov.
High Interest Military Loans
Many loan companies set up shop outside military installations and offer loans specifically for servicemembers and their families. While some financial institutions may offer special deals for members of the military, be cautious of loans that promise automatic approval or do not require a credit check. Such loans may contain hidden fees or extremely high interest rates. Legitimate lenders do not guarantee a loan before approval; be wary of any loans that require an up-front fee.
Before applying for a payday or title loan, consider checking with your bank or credit union for options. As a member of the military, you may be eligible to borrow small loans based on your branch of service from a military relief society. Speak to your Personal Financial Manager for guidance, or contact Military OneSource if you are facing financial trouble.
Identity theft is one of the primary complaints received by law enforcement agencies each year from all types of consumers, including those in the military. Scammers combine technology and deception to trick military consumers into sending money or turning over personal information. Before surrendering any funds or personal information, research the company or product online, or seek out reviews from friends and family. Be aware of anyone asking you to pay solely by wire transfer or reloadable cards. The government and legitimate companies would not insist on these types of payment methods.
Military members can also take proactive steps to protect their credit. Deployed service members can place an active duty alert on their credit reports, which means businesses must take extra steps before granting credit in your name. The alerts last for one year, and can be renewed to match the period of deployment. You may make your request by contacting any one of the credit bureaus, who will alert the others.
Additionally, as of September 2018, anyone can now freeze their credit for free. This will restrict access to your credit file, making it difficult for someone to open a new account in your name. If you would like to lift the freeze to open a new account, that process is also free, and must occur within one hour of your request. To freeze your credit, you must contact each of the three credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.